Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Reply to comment

exsoloadsolem's picture

Day 4: The Diary of Alice James

"These long pauses don't point to any mental aridity, my 'roomy forehead' is as full as ever of germinating thughts, but alas the machinery is more and more out of kilter.  I am sorry for you all, for I feel as if I hadn't even yet given my message.  I would there were more bursts of enthusiasm, less of the carping tone, through this, but I fear it comes by nature, and after all, the excellent Islander will ne'er be crushed by the knowledge of the eye that was upon him, through the long length of years, and the monotone of the enthusiast is more wearisome to sustain than a dyspeptic one." -Diary of Alice James, September 3, 1881

I feel this passage complicates a number of the conversations we have had in class surrounding this text.  One such complication (the most interesting, I think) is the reference in the above quote to " all..." which seems to indicate some sort of presumed audience on Alice's part, despite the inherent privacy of a diary. We had struggled in class last Wednesday when discussing how to read a diary, the merit of a diary as a historical and/or literary source, and for whom a diary is written.  I find that Alice has further confused me, because I cannot help but read the above excerpt without fully believing that Alice intended her diary to be read by others, which had never explicitly been indicated before within the diary, and also (in a sense) challenges the nature of a diary as something not to be shared with others.  Did Alice desire that her diary be read by others? Is this a symptom of her mental illness, that she is referring to a crowd that does not exist outside her own mind? Finally, is she being sarcastic and self-deprecating?  These possibilities are made more poignant (and frustrating) to me by the fact that they will never be clarified, as their source and their scribe are both deceased. 


The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
4 + 5 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.